Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
The Pulitzer Prize in Poetry has been presented since 1922 for a distinguished volume of original verse by an American author. However, special citations for poetry were presented in 1918 and 1919.For a complete list please visit: http://www.pulitzer.org/bycat/Poetry
2013: Stag's Leap by Sharon OldsIn this wise and intimate new book, Sharon Olds tells the story of a divorce, embracing strands of love, sex, sorrow, memory, and new freedom.As she carries us through the seasons when her marriage was ending, Olds opens her heart to the reader, sharing the feeling of invisibility that comes when we are no longer standing in love’s sight; the surprising physical bond that still exists between a couple during parting; the loss of everything from her husband’s smile to the set of his hip; the radical change in her sense of place in the world. Olds is naked before us, curious and brave and even generous toward the man who was her mate for thirty years and who now loves another woman. As she writes in the remarkable Stag’s Leap, “When anyone escapes, my heart / leaps up. Even when it’s I who am escaped from, / I am half on the side of the leaver.” Olds’s propulsive poetic line and the magic of her imagery are as lively as ever, and there is a new range to the music—sometimes headlong, sometimes contemplative and deep. Her unsparing approach to both pain and love makes this one of the finest, most powerful books of poetry she has yet given us.
2012: Life on Mars by Tracy K. SmithYou lie there kicking like a baby, waiting for God himself To lift you past the rungs of your crib. What Would your life say if it could talk? —from “No Fly Zone”With allusions to David Bowie and interplanetary travel, Life on Mars imagines a soundtrack for the universe to accompany the discoveries, failures, and oddities of human existence. In these brilliant new poems, Tracy K. Smith envisions a sci-fi future sucked clean of any real dangers, contemplates the dark matter that keeps people both close and distant, and revisits the kitschy concepts like “love” and “illness” now relegated to the Museum of Obsolescence. These poems reveal the realities of life lived here, on the ground, where a daughter is imprisoned in the basement by her own father, where celebrities and pop stars walk among us, and where the poet herself loses her father, one of the engineers who worked on the Hubble Space Telescope. With this remarkable third collection, Smith establishes herself among the best poets of her generation.
2011: The Best of It: New and Selected Poems by Kay RyanKay Ryan’s recently concluded two-year term as the Library of Congress’s sixteenth poet laureate is just the latest in an amazing array of accolades for this wonderfully accessible, widely loved poet—her awards include the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation, four Pushcart Prizes, and a Guggenheim fellowship. Ryan’s The Best of It: New and Selected Poems has garnered lavish praise. The two hundred poems in The Best of It offer a stunning retrospective of her work, as well as a swath of never-before-published poems—all of which are sure to appeal equally to longtime fans and general readers.
2010: Versed by Rae Armantrout
Rae Armantrout has always organized her collections of poetry as though they were works in themselves. Versed brings two of these sequences together, offering readers an expanded view of the arc of her writing. The poems in the first section, Versed, play with vice and versa, the perversity of human consciousness. They flirt with error and delusion, skating on a thin ice that inevitably cracks: "Metaphor forms / a crust / beneath which / the crevasse of each experience." Dark Matter, the second section, alludes to more than the unseen substance thought to make up the majority of mass in the universe. The invisible and unknowable are confronted directly as Armantrout's experience with cancer marks these poems with a new austerity, shot through with her signature wit and stark unsentimental thinking. Together, the poems of Versed part us from our assumptions about reality, revealing the gaps and fissures in our emotional and linguistic constructs, showing us ourselves where we are most exposed.
2009: The Shadow of Sirius by W. S. Merwin
In his best book in a decade—and one of the best outright—Merwin points his oracular, unpunctuated poems toward his own past, admitting, I have only what I remember, and offering what may be his most personal, generous and empathic collection. Somehow, he manages to dissolve the boundaries between one time and another, seeming to look forward to the past or remember what has yet to happen, as in a recollection of traveling to Europe by boat and seeing a warship I recognized/ from a model of it I had made/ when I was a child/ and beyond it/ there was a road down the cliff/ that I would descend some years later/ and recognize it/ there we were all together/ one time. The poems show the marks of having weathered ...the complete course/ of life, but also feel fresh and awake with a simplicity that can only be called wisdom: the morning is too/ beautiful to be anything else. Gorgeous poems about enduring love melt time as well, looking toward a moment when we will be no older than we ever were. These are among Merwin's best poems, because, as he says, it is the late poems/ that are made of words/ that have come the whole way/ they have been there.
2008: Time and Materials by Robert Hass
The poems in Robert Hass's new collection—his first to appear in a decade—are grounded in the beauty and energy of the physical world, and in the bafflement of the present moment in American culture. This work is breathtakingly immediate, stylistically varied, redemptive, and wise.
His familiar landscapes are here—San Francisco, the Northern California coast, the Sierra high country—in addition to some of his oft-explored themes: art; the natural world; the nature of desire; the violence of history; the power and limits of language; and, as in his other books, domestic life and the conversation between men and women. New themes emerge as well, perhaps: the essence of memory and of time.
The works here look at paintings, at Gerhard Richter as well as Vermeer, and pay tribute to his particular literary masters, friend Czesław Miłosz, the great Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer, Horace, Whitman, Stevens, Nietszche, and Lucretius. We are offered glimpses of a surprisingly green and vibrant twenty-first-century Berlin; of the demilitarized zone between the Koreas; of a Bangkok night, a Mexican desert, and an early summer morning in Paris, all brought into a vivid present and with a passionate meditation on what it is and has been to be alive. "It has always been Mr. Hass's aim," the New York Times Book Review wrote, "to get the whole man, head and heart and hands and everything else, into his poetry."
Every new volume by Robert Hass is a major event in poetry, and this beautiful collection is no exception.
2008: Failure by Philip Schultz
This superb Pulitzer Prize–winning collection gives voice to failure with a wry, deft touch from one of this country’s most engaging and uncompromising poets. In Failure, Philip Schultz evokes the pleasures of family,marriage, beaches, and dogs; New York City in the 1970s; revolutions both interior and exterior; and the terrors of 9/11 with a compassion that demonstrates he is a master of the bittersweet and fierce, the wondrous and direct, and the brilliantly provocative. Filled with poems of "heartbreaking tenderness that [go] beyond mere pity" (Gerald Stern), Failure is a collection to savor from this major American poet.
2007: Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey
Through elegiac verse that honors her mother and tells of her own fraught childhood, Natasha Trethewey confronts the racial legacy of her native Deep South -- where one of the first black regiments, the Louisiana Native Guards, was called into service during the Civil War. Trethewey's resonant and beguiling collection is a haunting conversation between personal experience and national history.
2006: Late Wife by Claudia Emerson
In Late Wife, a woman explores her disappearance from one life and reappearance in another as she addresses her former husband, herself, and her new husband in a series of epistolary poems. Though not satisfied in her first marriage, she laments vanishing from the life she and her husband shared for years. She then describes the unexpected joys of solitude during her recovery and emotional convalescence. Finally, in a sequence of sonnets, she speaks to her new husband, whose first wife died from lung cancer. The poems highlight how rebeginning in this relationship has come about in part because of two couples' respective losses. The most personal of Claudia Emerson's poetry collections, Late Wife is both an elegy and a celebration of a rich present informed by a complex past.
2005: Delights & Shadows by Ted Kooser
Like Kentucky's Wendell Berry, Kooser is a poet of place. But just as Kooser's eastern Nebraska is more modestly impressive than Berry's lush, riverine Kentucky, Kooser's poetry is more restrained than Berry's. Kooser is less big-C culturally concerned, less anxious about the destiny of nation and world. Kooser carries religion far more lightly; he envisions faith passing as casually "from door to door" as a pair of plaster or plastic "Praying Hands" en route to "every thrift shop in America." Having survived a major health crisis, Kooser is warier of death; in "Surviving" he writes of "days when the fear of death / is as ubiquitous as light," extending even to the ladybird beetle, paralyzed when "the fear of death, so attentive / to everything living, comes near." Though he focuses as often as Berry on memories, Kooser is less historically and more personally conscious in his poems of recollection. And Berry has come up with no finer metaphor than that of Kooser's "Memory," in which recall is a benignly ruthless tornado.
2004: Walking to Martha's Vineyard by Franz Wright
In this radiant collection, Franz Wright shares his regard for life in all its forms and his belief in the promise of blessing and renewal. As he watches the “Resurrection of the little apple tree outside / my window,” he shakes off his fear of mortality, concluding “what death . . . There is only / mine / or yours,– / but the world / will be filled with the living.” In prayerlike poems he invokes the one “who spoke the world / into being” and celebrates a dazzling universe–snowflakes descending at nightfall, the intense yellow petals of the September sunflower, the planet adrift in a blizzard of stars, the simple mystery of loving other people. As Wright overcomes a natural tendency toward loneliness and isolation, he gives voice to his hope for “the only animal that commits suicide,” and, to our deep pleasure, he arrives at a place of gratitude that is grounded in the earth and its moods.
2003: Moy Sand and Gravel by Paul Muldoon
Paul Muldoon's ninth collection of poems, his first since Hay (1998), finds him working a rich vein that extends from the rivery, apple-heavy County Armagh of the 1950s, in which he was brought up, to suburban New Jersey, on the banks of a canal dug by Irish navvies, where he now lives. Grounded, glistening, as gritty as they are graceful, these poems seem capable of taking in almost anything, and anybody, be it a Tuareg glimpsed on the Irish border, Bessie Smith, Marilyn Monroe, Queen Elizabeth I, a hunted hare, William Tell, William Butler Yeats, Sitting Bull, Ted Hughes, an otter, a fox, Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Joscelyne, un unearthed pit pony, a loaf of bread, an outhouse, a killdeer, Oscar Wilde, or a flock of redknots. At the heart of the book is an elegy for a miscarried child, and that elegiac tone predominates, particularly in the elegant remaking of Yeats's "A Prayer for My Daughter" with which the book concludes, where a welter of traffic signs and slogans, along with the spirits of admen, hardware storekeepers, flimflammers, fixers, and other forebears, are borne along by a hurricane-swollen canal, and private grief coincides with some of the gravest matter of our age.
2002: Practical Gods by Carl Dennis
Practical Gods is the eighth collection by Carl Dennis, a critically acclaimed poet and recent winner of one of the most prestigious poetry awards, the Ruth Lilly Prize. Carl Dennis has won acclaim for "wise, original, and often deeply moving" poems that "ease the reader out of accustomed modes of seeing and perceiving" (The New York Times). Many of the poems in this new book involve an attempt to enter into dialogue with pagan and biblical perspectives, to throw light on ordinary experience through metaphor borrowed from religious myth and to translate religious myth into secular terms. While making no claims to put us in touch with some ultimate reality, these clear, precise, sensitive poems help us to pay homage to the everyday household gods that are easy to ignore, the gods that sustain life and make it rewarding.
2001: Different Hours by Stephen Dunn
In his 11th volume of poetry, Dunn explores the "different hours" not only of a life but also of the historical and philosophical landscape beyond the personal.
2000: Repair by C. K. Williams
"Always, "These gigantic inconceivables."
Always, "What will have been done to me?"
And so we don our mental armor,
flex, thrill, pay the strict attention we always knew we should.
A violent alertness, the muscularity of risk,
though still the secret inward cry: What else, what more?"
Repair is body work in C. K. Williams's sensual poems, but it is also an imaginative treatment of the consternations that interrupt life's easy narrative. National Book Critics Circle Award-winner Williams keeps the self in repair despite love, death, social disorder, and the secrets that separate and join intimates. These forty poems experiment with form but maintain what Alan Williamson has heralded Williams for having so steadily developed from French influences: "the poetry of the sentence."